Career Interrupted: Golf’s First Suspended Doper Doug Barron Returns at Q-School
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Welcome Back, Doug Barron!

Doug Barron, the first and only player suspended under the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy, returned to competition on Tuesday at the second-stage of Q-school. He shot two-over 74 in the opening round. With all that he’s had to deal with the past year, it’s hard not to root for the 41-year-old journeyman, who was forced to take an exasperating diversion in the past year. At least in September, Barron finally was granted a therapeutic medical exemption for testosterone. And he’s just happy to put the nightmarish 10 months or so behind him.

Last November the PGA Tour announced Barron tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and suspended him for a year to prevent him from menacing competitors with his 275-yard drives. You see, the Tour puts its foot down when a player tests positive. They stomp on ‘roid-users and adhere to the regulations set by the International Anti-Doping Agency (which are the rules that the IOC sets for Olympic athletes). Except for the ones the Tour doesn’t agree with, like this one: “The Commissioner may depart from the sanction guidance in the International Anti-Doping Standards as he deems appropriate in a particular case.”

But for the Doug Barrons, who aren’t tour cash cows, they test positive for ‘roids and there will be consequences! And naturally, that’s a loosely interpreted term that differs from player-to-player depending on their Q-ratings — the Tour “reserves the right to not impose any sanction if that sanction would benefit a player’s standing in any manner,” according to the Tour Anti-Doping Policy Program.

For a mediocre (at best) golfer, who in recent years is struggling to earn enough to put food on the table, a one-year ban from the PGA Tour should fit the bill . I mean, maybe he’ll try to grind it out for another year or two, but his career is already over, so let’s just put him out of his misery. It’s like doing him a favor!

Meanwhile, last November a lawyer speaking on behalf of Barron told the court that a “significant” number of PGA Tour pros had tested positive for recreational drugs like cocaine/marijuana/whatever-the-kids-are-doing-these-days, but were not punished because the Tour may use discretion in non-doping violations.

The circumstances surrounding Barron’s positive test and suspension were peculiar. Think about it for a minute and consider the facts, then it starts to make twisted sense.

Barron was a journeyman in his 40s with zero PGA Tour wins. After eight full seasons on the PGA Tour, he lost his card at the end of 2006. In 2008 he played full-time on the Nationwide Tour, making five cuts in 17 starts to earn $33,446. In his four NWT starts and solo PGA Tour appearance, the St. Jude Classic in Barron’s hometown Memphis.

Barron’s history of health problems and taking medicines to function were practically common knowledge amongst his peers. The banned substances he tested positive for were a beta blocker Propranolol and testosterone, which were both prescribed by physicians. Since he was diagnosed with mitral-valve prolapse (a heart condition) in 1987, he was taking propranolol. In 2005 he doctors discovered he had abnormally low testosterone and treated it with testosterone shots.

When Barron applied for therapeutic use exemptions in October ’08 and January ’09, he was denied. Four months later in May ’09, he was asked to pee in a cup after he shot 72 in the first round at the St. Jude Classic in his hometown Memphis and the only PGA Tour event he entered in ’09.

A few weeks after Barron’s suspension was made public last November, he filed suit against the PGA Tour in Memphis federal court, with his attorneys arguing the case that Barron is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

According to the AP, PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the lawsuit has been “dismissed.” One of Barron’s attorneys said, “We’re pleased with the outcome.” Because of a confidentiality agreement, Barron couldn’t say anything except that the lawsuit had been “resolved.”

At least it sounds like justice was served (to some degree, since it cost Barron a year of misery — but surely he was compensated with a decent settlement?).

The biggest takeaway from all this? Don’t make someone that is slightly overweight, has a heart condition, the testosterone of a 90-year-old and a struggling journeyman the fall guy for taking the anti-doping policy seriously. Oh, and there are so many loopholes in the Tour anti-doping handbook than a glittery Sponge Bob. Or something like that.